The drive-for-five started pre-sundown in the Paris of the prairies, the Wild with all their treasures buried. The Oilers brought a good chunk of their a-team blessing the folks in Saskatoon with the presence of Connor McDavid, as well as Saskatchewan natives Jordan Eberle and Eric Gryba. Giant goaltending prospect Anders Nilsson started in net chalking-up a deserved shutout while facing AHL quality offence. Nilsson made a few great saves (25 in total), and McDavid contributed to the first two goals as the Oilers put 29 shots towards the Wild net. I love it when a plan comes together!
Oilers Line Combinations
|Benoit Pouliot||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Jordan Eberle|
|Anton Slepyshev||Connor McDavid||Leon Draisaitl|
|Matt Hendricks||Mark Letestu||Rob Klinkhammer|
|Luke Gazdic||Andrew Miller||Tyler Pitlick|
|Oscar Klefbom||Justin Schultz|
|Darnell Nurse||Joey Laleggia|
|Andrew Ference||Eric Gryba (of Sask.)|
Wild Line Combinations
|Michael Keranen||Erik Haula||Jordan Schroeder|
|Cristophe Bertschy||Brady Brassart||Zack Mitchell|
|Ruslan Fedotenko||Zac Dalpe||Brett Bulmer|
|Marc Hagel||Brett Sutter||Jared Knight|
|Marco Scandella||Matt Dumba|
|Mike Reilly||Christian Folin|
|Gustav Olofsson||Tyson Strachan|
|Darcy Kuemper (of Sask.)|
The game appeared to have the feeling of hometown affair for the Oilers with a large majority of Oilers’ jerseys visible in the crowd of 7541. After a rendition of both national anthems by broadcaster and self-proclaimed "political wife" Trish Cheveldayoff, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins won the opening draw and the Oilers sent the puck down the ice into the Wild’s zone resulting in a Corsi for Jordan Eberle. Eberle, tripped on the play, drew the first penalty of the game at 15 seconds. With Marco Skandella in the box for the Wild the Oilers lost control of the puck forcing Nilsson to make his first difficult stop of the game. The rest of the powerplay the Oilers retained control but failed to set-up any chances of significance. McDavid’s first appearance on the ice was greeted with a noticeable buzz from the crowd. The period continued with a few good hits by Minnesota native Matt Hendricks, a great drive to the net by McDavid at 11:30, a nice shot from Leleggia at 10:15.
After playing a relatively controlled period Anton Slepyshev scored at 18:10 from Draisaitl and McDavid. Draisaitl, with the puck behind the goal line on the nearside boards, passed the puck to McDavid who quickly sent it back to Draisaitl who then spotted Slepyshev open in the high-slot. The period ended with Joey Leleggia taking an interference penalty with 38 seconds remaining. Dumba had a scoring chance in the final seconds of the period that required a pad save in traffic from Nilsson.
The Oilers started the period a man short. Letestu won the opening faceoff and sent the puck down the ice. The Oilers efficiently killed the penalty with good work from defenders and forwards alike including a body check of sorts from Justin Schultz. Pouliot and Eberle continued their attack. Together with RNH they played solid possession north-south hockey, at times circulating the puck in the tricky merry-go-round style of the Sedin twins. At 16:45 Oscar Kelfbom coughed-up the puck in his own zone along the near boards and required a bail-out from Connor McDavid. McDavid tried something fancy, squirting the puck between his legs looking to pass it to one of his colleagues. The squirt back-fired resulting in a scoring chance for the Wild. Klefbom eventually gained control of the puck and passed it to Slepyshev who tipped it to McDavid at the centre line. All of a sudden it was a two-on-one with McDavid in on Kuemper and Draisaitl trailing. McDavid put the puck just wide.
At 13:34 iMcDavid lost an offensive-zone faceoff to Sutter resulting in a chance against for Hegel that was stopped by Nilsson. Shots were 15-11 for the Oilers with 12:01 to go. The period finished with 4-4 and 4-5 action after an offensive zone penalty during a powerplay by Pouliot, and a penalty kill after an Andrew Ference infraction. The Minnesota wild went 0 for 3 on the power play over two periods. Nilsson finished with one more savebringing his two-period total to 16.
The Wild came out roaring in the third and showed quite a bit of life for the first seven minutes. Between 13:30 and 12:30 the Draisaitl-McDavid-Slepyshev line was quite dominant, holding the puck in the Wild zone for almost the entire shift. There were several great chances during this minute for McDavid and Slepyshev with the pressure ended by an unforced error at the blue line courtesy of Justin Schultz. Anders Nilsson made a great pad save on Mike Reilly at 10:53. The period included a booming slapshot goal set-up by the Draisaitl-McDavid-Slepyshev crew. At 10:24 Draisaitl, obtaining the puck after some board work by McDavid, passed the puck to Kelfbom who delivered a one-timer from just inside of the blue line. The Wild pulled the goalie about 8 minutes later and soon thereafter Klinkhammer gained a well-deserved empty net goal. After the empty-netter Christian Folin decided to try his luck at fighting Luke Gazdic. Gazdic sent Folin to the ice quickly after pummelling Folin's visor.
3 v 3 Overtime
For the first time in my life I witnessed overtime after a shutout. As with the previous game both teams practiced three-on-three overtime as per the league’s suggestion. It was a short practice. The Oilers started with Schultz, McDavid, and Draisaitl. After an aggressive run by Schultz, the Wild alley-ooped the puck to a breaking Erik Haula who made short work of putting it past Nilsson less than thirty seconds in.
The Oilers looked more organized than the other preseason play I have watched. Overall, both forwards and defenders made some pretty big mistakes in their own end with the puck, particularly when trying to exit the zone. Had the Oilers been playing a Wild team with more bonafide NHL-ers they probably would have paid the price for some of these mistakes. Nilsson’s cool, calm, and collected professional play (and giant pads) also saved the day. The combination of McDavid with Draisaitl and Slepyshev seems to be one I wouldn’t want to mess with. Letestu and Klinkhammer provided some good defensive shut-down. The coaches and management have a few difficult decisions to make.